Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Summer We Got Saved, by Pat Cunningham Devoto

This audiobook was free from, was 12 hours and 53 minutes long, and was narrated by Katie Firth.

Tina and her younger sister, Tab, are part of a southern family in the 1960's that is collectively ambivalent about its connection with the founding of the Ku Klux Klan. The older members are proud and defensive of their heritage. Tab and Tina are more concerned about makeup and the pecking order at the malt shop. The girls' father, Charles, is hoping the coming changes will happen smoothly and gradually. The girls' aunt Eugenia is a flaming civil rights activist, and she is here on her annual, excruciating family visit.

Eugenia proposes to take the girls to visit some other distant relative for a week, and the other adults are relieved to let her go. What no one realizes is that Eugenia actually plans on taking the girls to the Highlander Folk School, a training camp for union and civil rights activists since 1932.

A parallel story involves Maudie, a childhood friend of the girls who went to Tuskegee Institute for polio rehabilitation, and is now running a voter education program at a black Missionary Baptist Church. She is not entirely welcome there. Blacks in the community don't all get it, and see this activism as a nuisance that will only draw fire from the local rednecks. It's an uphill struggle for Maudie, who fits in with no group. She is the "crippled girl" and is treated with derision by the young "cotton girls" who live to drink and carouse.

Tab's clueless innocence isn't quite ruined by what she has learned by participating in a sit-in at a Woolworth's counter. After all, she gets to go home from all of this. But she will never simply parrot the family lore any more. It's not that she thinks it isn't real. She has simply encountered something more real.

I gravitate toward stories like these because I lived through the Civil Rights Era on television. It simply was not an issue in my town, and in my school. I never went to a segregated school. My Boy Scout troop was integrated, but we never thought about it as such. I had an African-American History class in the 6th grade (1969), and it was a real immersion into the incredible injustices that were perpetrated in the past. It made me wonder if people in the South were actually human. Now I live here, and sometimes feel like I am not in on the secrets. I think I may have gotten a few clues from this engaging story. It gets 4 stars from me.

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